Frindle came into our lives when one of our boys had it assigned at school. It was love at first read. We would go on to enjoy many books by Andrew Clements, but I kept coming back to this one.
The story is about a boy named Nick who comes up with the new word frindle for a pen. The book’s themes – the power of words and creativity, an individual’s ability to have impact – resonate with young readers. But they have so much to say to the rest of us, too.
Around the time of my son’s bar mitzvah, I decided to write to Mr. Clements, to tell him how much his books – Frindle and Lunch Money, in particular – meant to this child. What I didn’t expect was a response.
Two months later, however, Clements wrote back. He told my son how much he appreciated hearing from us, especially to learn his books had such meaningful impact. He included a beautiful line about the importance of having faith and a faith-based community in one’s life. He enclosed a small note to me as well, which I keep in a treasure box.
This paragraph at the end of Frindle is my favorite. It’s in a letter Nick’s former teacher sends him when he’s already a university student and frindle has officially entered the dictionary:
“So many things have gone out of date. But after all these years, words are still important. Words are still needed by everyone. Words are used to think with, to write with, to dream with, to hope and pray with.”
Sadly, Andrew Clements passed away last week. May his memory and his books be a blessing. I did not know him, nor did I ever meet him. But he wound his way into my heart through his stories, and I will mourn all the words that were surely still inside him when he passed, taking them with him into the next world before he had the chance to share them with the rest of us.
I plan to reread Frindle (again) this Shabbos, and to think hard about words. Because our words, the ones we exchange with one another and the ones we exchange with G-d, make all the difference in this world. And may we be blessed to remember that they have the power to change it for good.
Gut Shabbos! Shabbat Shalom!